Researchers have found 1 mm-wide plastic beads filled with nitric oxide to be more effective at treating erectile dysfunction than popular prescription drugs, such as sildenafil (Viagra). Preliminary tests found the beads effective on rats induced with type 2 diabetes; however, the effects are potentially sweeping, researchers claim.

Published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, the study highlights the role that diabetes and high cholesterol play in causing erectile dysfunction. In such cases, the blood vessels that normally engorge with blood receive an insufficient amount, making achieving an erection impossible. Estimates say roughly 35 to 75 percent of male diabetics will experience some form of impotence in their lifetime. Worse, men with diabetes often develop erectile dysfunction 10 to 15 years earlier than men without the disease.

Rice University scientists injected the tiny nitric oxide beads into rats’ corpus cavernosa, the regions of the penis that fill with blood and trigger an erection. They found greater overall improvement in subject impotence compared to sildenafil and were able to sustain positive results for three weeks.

When the beads are injected into the host, the nitric oxide is released and expands the blood vessels, making delivery of blood to the vessels much easier. The gas is released normally, but men who suffer from diabetes, high cholesterol, or erectile dysfunction with separate causes tend to produce too little of it. As a result, smooth muscle relaxation (vasodilation) cannot take place, impeding blood flow to the spongy tissue of the organ.

Approximately five percent of 40-year-old men experience erectile dysfunction on a long-term basis, with the rate increasing to 15-25 percent among men 65 years and older. Experts reassure men that impotence is a prolonged condition; failing to achieve an erection less than 20 percent of the time often does not demand treatment. However, given the rising obesity rates in the U.S. and around the world, the roughly one in every three American males with high blood pressure — and roughly one out of every nine with diabetes — makes erectile dysfunction a growing threat.

Up next for the beads are human trials. If all goes to plan, the researchers say their beads could be available to consumers within five years. Professor Raj Persad, from Bristol Urological Institute, added that the beads may also have benefits for overall health in how they stimulate blood flow throughout other parts of the body.

“This new technology is a welcome approach to the management of erectile dysfunction,” Persad told the Daily Mail. “The beneficial effects of the nitric oxide may be seen not only in erections but in protective and beneficial cardiovascular effects. I look forward to this treatment being licensed for use in the UK as it seems both safe and effective on the data presented.”

 

Source: Soni S, Song S, West J, Khera M. Nitric Oxide-Releasing Polymeric Microspheres Improve Diabetes-Related Erectile Dysfunction. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2013.